June 2013


IMG_6876_ed_lThis morning I was excited to harvest my first fig of the season, and it was tasty! I then started my regular pass through the garden, harvesting what’s available today. My two BIG items for the day are my string beans and my plums.

The string beans are a new variety for me, a musica romana. These beans are huge! And the plants (about eight) are very productive. Since this is just the beginning of their harvest, I’ll have to make room in the freezer for lots of them. They provide a nice addition to my winter soups.

IMG_6877_ed_lThe plums have been ripening like crazy this week. This will be my biggest harvest ever (what you see in the picture is about 1/3 of the harvest so far this week) and I’m struggling to deal with all of them. They don’t travel well because they are so ripe and juicy, so giving them away is harder than my berries.  I started four batches of plum liqueur yesterday. I thought of making jam, but what I’ve been learning is that they are simply too ripe to make good jam. I’ll try to be very careful with them and take them for snacks to dance class tonight and tomorrow. And I’ll take lots of napkins. 🙂

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IMG_6810_ed_lJune begins my summer harvesting season, with berries and stone fruit in abundance. This was my harvest one day about a week ago–mostly blackberries, some raspberries and a few apriums. The blackberries and raspberries are slowing down now, but the apriums and apricots are in full harvest. I started harvesting my blueberries about a week ago and they are just starting to produce in quantity. In about a week my plums will be coming in. My figs, grapes and apples are other perennials well on their way, too.

My annual crops are already starting to come in. I picked a cucumber a few days ago, and I’ve got two kinds of summer squash that I’ll start to pick in a few days. This is the best part of the year, with all these fresh fruits and vegetables to eat, preserve and share. Life is good as an urban farmer.

IMG_6815_ed_lA number of years ago, I finished planting out my backyard mini-farm, with raspberries, grapes, blueberries and a pomegranate. I’ve harvested the berries for a couple years, last year was my first small crop of grapes (this year looks to be stupendous) and I’ve been waiting patiently for my pomegranate to produce. A week ago, I noticed these little red “things” on my pomegranate, evidence that this year I’ll get my first pomegranates. Hurray!

I say “things” because I’m not yet familiar with the persimmon’s flowering and fruiting habits. I don’t know if this is a flower bud that has yet to open or, if I missed the flowers and this is already fruit on the way. Does anyone know?

In any case, flower or fruit, I look forward to watching it do its thing and to eating pomegranate seeds later this year.

I still have one tree–a pineapple guava–that has yet to produce fruit. It has flowered in past years, one of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen, but has produced no fruit yet. So, I continue to be patient…

IMG_6709_ed_lA fruit tree covered with blossoms will eventually produce many small fruit. One of the secrets of getting larger fruit is to thin those fruit aggressively, removing 50-90% of small fruit. This allows the tree to concentrate it’s water and sugars into the remaining fruit, making them larger and more flavorful.

So, what’s the problem? For most backyard orchardists, thinning fruit is a difficult, even painful process. Taking off most of the fruit feels like killing your young. Every one of those fruits has the potential to grow into a tasty morsel. But, just as putting 30 children in a single classroom is not the best way to educate children, leaving all those small fruits on a tree is not the best way to grow tasty and healthy fruit. IMG_6824_ed_lHaving a small number of students in a classroom allows the precious time of a skilled teacher to be focused on a smaller number of children. And thinning fruit on your trees allows the tree to focus its resources on the remaining fruit. So, you must thin the fruit.

A quick how-to: Thin fruit so the remaining fruit are about six inches apart. Go ahead, just do it.  It’s painful, but you’ll be glad you did.

IMG_6830_ed_lPhotos:

  1. The first photo shows the fruit thinned six weeks ago from my apricot and two plums that are planted next to each other.
  2. The second picture shows some of this year’s harvest, picked yesterday,  of apricots (left) and apriums (right). There are several small fruits among the apricots, suggesting that I didn’t thin aggressively enough on that tree. Next year I’ll have to thin more fruit. The apriums are all large and beautiful, letting me know I did a good job of thinning that tree.
  3. The third photo shows some of my nicely spaced (i.e., thinned) crop of plums that are coming along, which I’ll begin to harvest in about one week. Yumm!